The evenings are drawing in, leaves are collecting in the gutters and the magpies are doing a splendid, if noisy, job of clearing them; plus the first Christmas advert is on TV (Argos in case you hadn't noticed) so it must be time to buy currants. Lots of things I bake over the year call for sultanas, raisins or other dried fruit, but none, other than Christmas cake, need currants.
I decided this year to go with Mary Berry's recipe. Simply because I bought her latest book awhile ago and it was at the forefront of my mind. I have a wonderful rich fruit cake recipe that I use to take into work as it doesn't contain nuts or need booze, but the alcohol content of this one (or my liberal interpretation of the recipe) means it can be made in advance. The downside is the forward planning needed in order to soak the fruit overnight, but Sunday mornings usually start early for me so a couple of Saturdays ago I checked the drinks cabinet for brandy, popped off to Waitrose to buy currants and got out the kitchen scales. Mary's recipe has a great section where she scales the recipe to accommodate various tin sizes. I wanted to make an 8" square and also some smaller ones as gifts. Good old Lakeland sell bakers moulds which are great if you're making cakes to give as gifts so I doubled the recipe for the 8" square tin and managed to make five of the medium sized moulds. The moulds took just over two two hours to cook through (with three in one oven and two in another) but the large one took over five! Good job I woke early and had no plans for the day.
This last Saturday I repeated the whole exercise all over again for another five small cakes. There's not enough time to make more before Christmas but I plan to make the rich fruit cake nearer the time to take into work. I have no photos at the moment due to ongoing laptop issues, but hope to add some soon.
Other than the pre-soaking of the fruit the recipe comes together really quickly. I left out the candied peel (nasty stuff) and just increased each of the other dried fruits. I've also decided not to ice the cakes* so have put nuts and cherries on the top and will glaze them nearer the time, they do need some kind of adornment as these are not pretty cakes when plain. However the smell as they're baking is just divine. There really is no other smell like it, better even than fresh bread I think and with the aroma of Christmas in the air I could even forgive Argos for starting their campaign in October.
Mary Berry's Classic Rich Christmas Cake
Ingredients for 23 cm (9") round or 23 (8") square tin
- Glace Cherries 150g
- Ready to eat dried apricots 150g
- Currents 400g
- Sultanas 225g
- Raisins 225g
- Candied Peel 65g (I added extra of each of the other dried fruits)
- Brandy 4 tbsp (and then some!)
- Plain Flour 275g
- Grated Nutmeg scant 1/2 tsp
- Ground mixed spice 3/4 tsp
- Softened butter 275g
- Dark muscavado sugar 275g
- Large eggs 5
- Chopped almonds (I used flaked) 65g
- Black treacle 1tbsp
- Rind lemon 1 1/2
- Rind orange 1 1/2
- Baking times (aprox) 4 3/4 hrs
140C (Fan) 120 Gas Mark 1
- The night before you want to make the cake, rinse the cherries in water, drain, dry and cut into quaters. Cut/chop apricots and put all fruits in large bowl, add brandy, cover and leave.
- Preheat oven, grease and double line tin.
- Measure flour, spices, butter, sugar, eggs, almonds, treacle and rinds into large bowl, beat well (good workout for the upper arms) and then fold in the fruits.
- Spoon in to tin and spread out evenly with back of spoon (if decorating with whole blanched almonds or brazil nuts and cherries now is the time to add them). Cover loosely with a double layer of baking parchment.
- Bake until firm and skewer comes out clean. Leave cake to cool in tin.
- When cool, pierce at intervals with a fine skewer and feed with a little brandy. Wrap completely cold cake in double layer of parchment and then again with foil.
- If you're icing etc do so a week before serving (like you won't have enough to do on the 18th December)
*I really don't like marzipan or icing so even though these are for others I decided not to bother, plus I'm a little bit scared of the process, plus I really couldn't be bothered!